There has been an interesting discussion over on the Law Marketing Listserv (subscription required) on the pros and cons of associate origination. The conversation has been very interesting. While there is an increase in associate marketing training and interest in some firms, others (especially MegaFirms) still don’t want their associates unchained from the almighty billable clock.

Such firms are not worried about the gap in the associates’ education, because they don’t ever expect them to bring in clients. Rather, after they have milked them for all the income they can produce, and burned them out (or tossed them out), they’ll just hire more newbies to replace them. It all came back to me this week after reading Grisham’s new book The Associate.  But I digress.

The main reason associates need to learn how to market (or really sell) themselves, is so they will survive the long term. No lawyer can afford to ignore the realities of the Business of Law 101. On a more personal level, associates can’t afford to retain the outmoded thinking that the work will always be there. Heck, I know some partners who, until recently, still thought that.

The reality is that lawyers, who rely on others in their firm to feed them work, will find that at some point in their career they will become too expensive for those other lawyers to do that. As their billable hour rate rises (along with their compensation), eventually they will become too expensive. Then, those internal referrals will go to younger and less expensive associates.

I am not saying that associates need to be concerned about this gap in their education on day one at the firm, since their first goal is to learn to become good, real world lawyers; but, within a year or so, they need to become aware of the need to develop business in the long term to help sustain the law firm and their practice.

Short of that, they better be buying a lot of lottery tickets.

  • Meg Langley Grainger

    I completely agree with your take on this issue. I am already seeing the old ways of firm marketing going the way of the dodo. Firms – and associates – will have to be increasingly creative to capture business moving forward. Not unlike business as a whole, and marketers in particular, I suspect.